Richie McCaffery


When I was a kid, Dad took me

every week on a supermarket trip

to get some whittles in,

(we ate like a family of gannets).

Mam didn't come, she was busy

working two jobs for us.

Dad had lost his a year ago

and he blamed it on this tribe

of grey people he called 'Tories'

or 'toffs' or 'tits'.

He would have tectonic fits

because he was a lawyer

but quit a decade back

to take up surveying

and become a 'scabby bastard'

at Chevington Opencast.

Since then his legal license

had lapsed and he wasn't fit

for the bar, unless it was the one

that opened around noon.

But at Netto's he'd plonk me

on the seat in the trolley,

like a metal sedan chair,

so I could be the midget ruler

of a kingdom of crisps, cans, cakes.

And if I was really sneaky

I could snaffle a little something

like a pack of iced gems

when he was price checking.

We both loved the alcohol aisle,

the spectrum of colours, port's obsidian,

wine's violet, whisky's rose gold

or vodka like water with de-icer in it.

Sometimes he'd let me pick

a different drink for him,

not his signature super-strength:

central heating for tramps. I didn't

understand that phrase but I knew

he drank plenty tinnies a day

until he was pleasantly bevvied.

If I woke and went downstairs,

he'd be zonked in front of the telly

and that sickly looking man

who was running the country

and who thought peas

were 'most agreeable'

might be on, talking in monotone

like a Dalek on Prozac.

Dad would be watching him, hazy

and cock-eyed. He smelled

a bit like pickled onions

when he was drunk.

Every time I went in there

it was an epiphany to him

and he'd pick me up

and hold me like the World Cup

and breathe an incense of esters

into my face as he talked

nice nonsense at me

and sometimes he'd fall asleep

with me tangled in the warm cage

of his heavy arms.

Richard Mcaffery © 2010